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Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2007 Jan;292(1):E151-7. Epub 2006 Aug 22.

Satellite cell content is specifically reduced in type II skeletal muscle fibers in the elderly.

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Dept. of Movement Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, Maastricht University, PO Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, The Netherlands.


Satellite cells (SC) are essential for skeletal muscle growth and repair. Because sarcopenia is associated with type II muscle fiber atrophy, we hypothesized that SC content is specifically reduced in the type II fibers in the elderly. A total of eight elderly (E; 76 +/- 1 yr) and eight young (Y; 20 +/- 1 yr) healthy males were selected. Muscle biopsies were collected from the vastus lateralis in both legs. ATPase staining and a pax7-antibody were used to determine fiber type-specific SC content (i.e., pax7-positive SC) on serial muscle cross sections. In contrast to the type I fibers, the proportion and mean cross-sectional area of the type II fibers were substantially reduced in E vs. Y. The number of SC per type I fiber was similar in E and Y. However, the number of SC per type II fiber was substantially lower in E vs. Y (0.044 +/- 0.003 vs. 0.080 +/- 0.007; P < 0.01). In addition, in the type II fibers, the number of SC relative to the total number of nuclei and the number of SC per fiber area were also significantly lower in E. This study is the first to show type II fiber atrophy in the elderly to be associated with a fiber type-specific decline in SC content. The latter is evident when SC content is expressed per fiber or per fiber area. The decline in SC content might be an important factor in the etiology of type II muscle fiber atrophy, which accompanies the loss of skeletal muscle with aging.

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